Iipay Nation, Kahnawake Mohawks assert tribal sovereignty over online gaming

TAGs: California, Canada, desert rose bingo, iipay nation of santa ysabel, Kahnawake Gaming Commission, Loto Quebec, Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, tribal gaming

kahnawake-gaming-commission-iipay-nation-santa-ysabelCalifornia’s Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel says the complaint filed against its online bingo site last week by the state attorney general is an attack on “the sovereignty of all tribes.” The state has asked a federal court for a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctions against Desert Rose Bingo, the Great Luck LLC-powered real-money bingo site the tribe launched earlier this month. A judge is set to hear the case on Dec. 4.

The state argued that the bingo site is an “electronic facsimile of bingo” and thus a prohibited form of Class III gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) while the tribe contends the site is a Class II bingo operation and thus well within its rights. In a statement, the Iipay Nation says the state’s complaint “lacks both substance and merit” and “completely ignores” federal guidelines laid out in the US Supreme Court’s landmark Cabazon Decision of 1987.

The state’s complaint said officials contacted the tribe in July after it announced plans to launch, a real-money online poker site, but these requests for a sit-down went unanswered. The tribe’s statement counters by saying it has invited “various state and federal officials to review operations on a government-to-government basis” but that no official had yet to take them up on their offer. The tribe says it looks forward to demonstrating the “legality, regulatory veracity and consumer safety” of its bingo site.

The Iipay Nation has partnered with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (KGC) to host some of its technology within the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake. On Monday, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) released a statement addressing the recent report commissioned by Quebec’s provincial gaming monopoly Loto-Quebec, which urged the province to open up its online gambling operations to include the licensing of international operators.

The MCK “strongly opposes” the report’s recommendation that Canada revise its Criminal Code to permit the licensing of private online gambling operators, at least, not until First Nations are consulted. The MCK says the 1985 amendment to the Code that delegated authority over gaming issues from the feds to provincial governments didn’t bother consulting with First Nations, whose “inherent rights to participate in the gaming industry were ignored.”

The MCK says Loto-Quebec has “consistently snubbed” Kahnawake’s attempts to hold talks on a mutually agreed framework for online gaming. Given the new report, the MCK is once again seeking to resolve its “outstanding jurisdictional differences” and create “a safe, fair and equitable gaming environment for all.” Kahnawake believes the time is right to create “a new reality for virtual gaming in Quebec.”

The MCK statement also notes that the report criticized the incompatibility of Loto-Quebec acting as both regulator and operator. The MCK says it has long pointed out this apparent conflict of interest and that, unlike Loto-Quebec, the KGC is “wholly independent from the operators it licenses and regulates.”


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